Miss Fane’s Baby is Stolen (1934)

US / 68 minutes / bw / Paramount Dir: Alexander Hall Pr: Bayard Veiller Scr: Adela Rogers St. Johns Story: “Kidnapt” (1933 Hearst’s International–Cosmopolitan) by Rupert Hughes Cine: Alfred Gilks Cast: Dorothea Wieck, Alice Brady, Baby Le Roy, William Frawley, George Barbier, Alan Hale, Jack La Rue, Dorothy Burgess, Florence Roberts, Marcelle Corday, Irving Bacon, “Spanky” McFarland, Carmencita Johnson, Cullen Johnson

A movie supposedly based loosely on the real-life 1932 case of the Lindbergh kidnapping, although I can find no firm evidence to support this claim. Aside from the obvious—rich baby is kidnapped—the only real resemblance in the movie to the real case occurs in an odd little sidebar that could almost have been tacked on afterward in order to cash in on the similarity of theme: As the cops search the house and grounds for any trace of missing baby Michael they find a rig leading up to the child’s bedroom window, as was the case in the Lindbergh abduction. Otherwise, though, I think this is just an instance of a movie’s publicists being rather yuckily opportunistic.

Dorothea Wieck as Madeline Fane

In the movie, Madeline Fane (Wieck) is a famous movie star, tragically widowed a year ago, who’s bringing up her 18-month-old son Michael (Le Roy) with the help of Continue reading

The Hitchhiker (2011)

Denmark / 15 minutes / color / Tape_7 Productions Dir & Scr: Kenneth L. Truelsen Pr: Mads Erichsen Cine: Kim Jean Karlsson Cast: Lorena Zitelli, Per Knudsen, Kristel Janni Larsen

A short movie that, because of the extreme simplicity of the story it has to tell, relies on the telling rather than the tale, and in particular on the punch it manages to administer within its brief span.

Middle-aged Lars (Knudsen) can hardly believe his luck when, on a lonely stretch of rural road, he picks up miniskirted babe Paula (Zitelli) as a hitchhiker. As they prattle, she makes herself as alluring as possible to him—partially unbuttoning Continue reading

A Short by Elliot Lavine: The Twisted Corridor (1982)

US / 18 minutes / bw / Detour Dir & Scr: Elliot Lavine Pr: Elliot Lavine, Fred Klein Cine: Greg Wardell, Deland Nuse Cast: John X. Heart, Alan Dowell, Harry Rosenbluth, Harry Freeman, Sheila Lichirie, Larry Stofer, Lisa Barnett, David A. Radovich, Freddy Klein, Eddie Detour

A somewhat more ambitious movie than the same director’s earlier effort, Blind Alley (1981), being longer and with a more involved plot. However, while it’s shot in a very noirish fashion and has a screenplay that’s primarily voiceover, in a sense it seems to me less close to the heart of noir than its pared-down predecessor, being more of a psychological piece.

That’s not to say that it doesn’t have precursors that are very firmly in the film noir genre, notably Fear in the Night (1947) and Nightmare (1956), both directed by Maxwell Shane and based on the Cornell Woolrich story “And So to Death” (1941, Argosy; vt “Nightmare”), written by Woolrich under his William Irish pseudonym.

John X. Heart as Del

Advertising artist Del Garvin (Heart) is being troubled by a recurring dream:

“Night after night it’s the same dream. What’s it supposed to mean? These hallways, where do they lead? Corridors, spinning and twisting . . .”

Eventually, in the dream, he finds himself in front of the door to Room 11. When the door opens to his knock he stabs Continue reading

A Short by Elliot Lavine: Blind Alley (1981)

US / 11 minutes / bw / Detour Dir & Scr: Elliot Lavine Pr: Mary Kay DeLucco, Elliot Lavine Cine: Howard Dowell, Eddie Detour Cast: Gregory Pace, Ronald Gregoire

A splendid brief noir outing, shot in glorious black-and-white, that’s been completely overlooked by the compilers at the IMDB. You can, however, watch it for yourself here.

After robbing a meat-packing plant of close to $50,000 in payroll funds, Benny (Pace), his face masked by a stocking, leaps into the back of the getaway car behind driver Leo (Gregoire). After they’ve gone some distance, Continue reading

A Short Interview with Elliot Lavine

How This All Came About

In November last year I came across an interesting-looking noir short on YouTube, Blind Alley (1981). A few days later I watched it and was blown away: eleven minutes of noirish ecstasy.

I sat down to write an entry on it for this site and discovered that information on the movie, its director and its cast was extremely thin on the ground. There was nothing on IMDB to give me a lead as to where I might find stuff—nothing at all on IMDB, in fact—and searches with Qwant and Bing at first revealed very little more.

One of the results did, however, jog my memory. In his posting of the movie to YouTube the director, Elliot Lavine, mentioned his work curating film noir festivals for the Roxie Cinema in San Francisco. Sure enough, up popped a couple of interviews with him in that capacity; here’s one. I’d read the interview before, I realized, and that reminded me that someone else who curates movie seasons for the Roxie has commented a couple of times here on Noirish (displaying an embarrassingly greater knowledge of the movies concerned than mine own): Don Malcolm.

From Blind Alley

Oh, and I learned, too, that in 2010 Elliot was honored at the 9th San Francisco Film Critics Circle Awards with the Marlon Riggs Award (“for courage & vision in the Bay Area film community”):

Elliot Lavine, in recognition of his two decades of film programming, his revival of rare archival and independent titles, and his role in the renewed popularity of film noir and pre-Production Code features.

Anyway, I plucked up my courage and contacted Elliot through YouTube to ask for more info about Blind Alley. Soon we were chatting via email, and Elliot very generously agreed to answer my pesky queries. In fact, he did so with such zeal and panache that Continue reading

Secret Witness (1988 TVM)

US / 71 minutes / color / Just Greene, CBS Dir: Eric Laneuville Pr: Vanessa Greene Scr: Alfred Sole, Paul Monette Cine: Matthew F. Leonetti Cast: David Rasche, Paul Le Mat, Leaf Phoenix (i.e., Joaquin Phoenix), Kellie Martin, Barry Corbin, Paddi Edwards, Deborah Wakeham, Dean Wein, Kendall McCarthy, Eric Love, T.C. Ryan, Jeff O’Haco, Eric Harrison, Betty Bridges, David Raynr

Although its two lead protagonists are children, this is arguably not a children’s movie. I’m not sure it’s entirely a movie for adults, either, since, while it deals tangentially with adult subjects like sex and adultery and features a psychopath, it doesn’t do so in any especially analytic and/or graphic fashion. For similar reasons, it doesn’t really cut it as a family movie, either. Best just to take it on its own terms, then, and enjoy it as the lightweight piece that it is.

Kellie Martin as Jenny

Leaf (Joaquin) Phoenix as Drew

Of course, there are plenty of movies that have child protagonists yet aren’t aimed at children—or, on occasion, even suitable for a youthful audience. Writing now, late on a Sunday night, just off the top of my head, I can think immediately of a few noirish examples: Continue reading

Une Balle dans le Canon (1958)

vt A Bullet in the Gun Barrel; vt Slug in the Heater
France / 69 minutes / bw / Filmatec, Les Films Corona Dir: Charles Gérard, Michel Deville Pr: Michel et François Sweerts Scr: Albert Simonin, Charles Gérard Story: Albert Simonin Cine: Claude Lecomte Cast: Pierre Vaneck, Mijanou Bardot, Paul Frankeur, Roger Hanin, Hazel Scott, Gérard Buhr, Colette Duval, Don Ziegler, Robert Le Béal, Yves Arcanel, Jean Rochefort, Mario David, Pierre Cordier, Roger Desmare, Michael Lonsdale, Jean-Pierre Moutier, Albert Simonin

A thoroughly enjoyable slice of French noir that I missed, alas, when writing A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir. Its co-director, Michel Deville, would go on to greater things, including a few movies of noirish interest—see below.

Back in Saigon during the French war in Indochina, paratroopers Antoine “Tony” Rossi (Vaneck) and his pal Dick (Hanin) met up with a shady figure called Boris Shivara (Ziegler), generally known in crime circles as Le Maltais (“The Maltese”). He gave them 25 million francs to smuggle into France on their return from service, plus a bonus of two million as commission. They soon enough blew the two million but, when Le Maltais failed to turn up and they assumed he was an ex-Maltais, pining for the fjords, invested the 25 million in a nightclub, the Tip-Tap. After all, the guy who sold it to them, Alberto (Buhr), promised that if need be he’d buy it back from them at the purchase price should they ever need the 25 million in a hurry—i.e., should Le Maltais ever turn up.

Pierre Vaneck as Antoine ‘Tony’ Rossi

The Tip-Tap, alas, loses money hand over fist, and then Le Maltais arrives in town demanding his money pronto or blood will be shed. Alberto is oddly forgetful about Continue reading

Twelve Shorts for the Shortest Month #12: The Woman in the Room (2010)

US / 7½ minutes / color / Sleeping Dog Dir & Scr: Christen Kimbell Pr: Sean David Jenkins, Rich Brusatori, Christen Kimbell Cine: Scott Ballard Cast: Maren McGuire, Phillip M. Meyer

Despite the title, this isn’t based on the 1978 Stephen King story that has inspired a whole string of shorts including one that was previously covered on this site, The Woman in the Room (1983).

Peter (Meyer) wakes up in the morning after a one-night stand with Alexa (McGuire) to discover she’s having some kind of seizure. His first instinct is to bolt, but he thinks better of it and stays to help her get through the crisis. Could this be the start of something greater for them?

Maren McGuire as Alexa

My enjoyment of this movie was severely hampered by the difficulty I had Continue reading

Twelve Shorts for the Shortest Month #11: Glove Compartment (2015)

UK / 13 minutes / color, opening sequence in bw / Major Zeus, Zoetic Films Dir & Scr: Dan Allen Pr: Dan Allen, Charlotte Rose Palmer, Jamie Weston Cine: Tom Allen Cast: Jon Campling, Andrew Coppin, Libby Braidwood, Louise Ann Munro, Nik Kempsey

Two hitmen, who go under the noms de guerre Frankie (Campling) and Jacob (Coppin), have been contracted to kill Mr. Peterson (Kempsey) and Mrs. Peterson (Munro).

Jacob, the younger of the two killers, does the deed, but spares the Petersons’ cute little daughter Abigail (Braidwood), bringing her with him from the death scene.

Frankie’s appalled: their contract was for no survivors. But Jacob prevails, persuading the older man that, Continue reading

Twelve Shorts for the Shortest Month #10: Pitch Black Heist (2011)

UK / 14 minutes / bw / DMC, UK Film Council, Film4 Dir & Scr: John Maclean Pr: Gerardine O’Flynn Cine: Robbie Ryan Cast: Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham, Alex Macqueen

Shot in glorious black-and-white—and for a chunk of its running time in just glorious black—this enigmatic UK short won a 2012 BAFTA as Best Short Film and was nominated as Best Narrative Short at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.

The opening credits play the 1955 Roger Williams version of the classic French song Les Feuilles Mortes (1945) over a scene of stacked boxes in a vault. The song, with music by Joseph Kosma and lyrics by Jacques Prévert, was first used onscreen in Marcel Carné’s Les PORTES DE LA NUIT (1946; vt Gates of the Night). With English-language lyrics by Johnny Mercer, the song reappeared in the Joan Crawford vehicle AUTUMN LEAVES (1956) dir Robert Aldrich. The Roger Williams version is apparently the only piano instrumental to reach #1 in the US Billboard charts, which it did in 1955, remaining there for four weeks.

Ahem. Apologies for the digression.

 

Alex Mcqueen as Isaac briefs Michael (Fassbender, left) and Liam (Cunningham)

The use of the piece here has, thanks to the tune’s countless cinematic and other incarnations, the effect of gearing us emotionally to anticipate a UK noir of the 1940s/1950s, which is more or less—despite the numerous uses of the f-word (you’d not catch upright, pipe-smoking Ronald Howard saying that in public!)—what’s being homaged in Pitch Black Heist.

Two thieves, Liam (Cunningham) and the far more taciturn Michael (Fassbender), are brought together to pull off a bank job in the City of London. The significant problem they face is Continue reading